Relief for Cantabrians facing debt problems after quakes
15 November 2010
Consumers struggling with loan repayments as a result of the Canterbury earthquakes may be able to use provisions in consumer legislation that provide financial relief in circumstances of unforeseen hardship.
"Under the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act, in certain circumstances debtors have the right to ask for a variation of their repayment obligations under a consumer credit contract on the grounds of hardship," said Graham Gill, Commerce Commission Enforcement Branch Manager.
This process may provide temporary financial relief to debtors struggling to make personal loan, mortgage, credit card or other consumer credit repayments as a result of unforeseen events such as reduced income through loss of employment or a reduction in hours of employment. It may also be used by debtors who face an increase in expenditure as a result of an unforeseen event such as making mortgage payments and also covering the costs of temporary accommodation while earthquake damage to their homes is fixed.
There are some limitations to applying for hardship. Importantly, debtors must be up to date with repayments at the time the application is made.
More information about hardship and making an application is on the Commission's website at www.comcom.govt.nz/hardship
"The Commerce Commission expects that more consumers will make applications to creditors under the unforeseen hardship provisions as a result of the financial impact of the earthquakes. We encourage businesses providing credit to educate themselves about the hardship provisions, so they can deal with these applications appropriately", said Mr Gill.
"It is important that creditors provide correct information about debtors' rights when they are asked, or they risk breaching the Fair Trading Act."
More information about Fair Trading Act compliance programmes, which may assist traders, can be found at www.comcom.govt.nz/developing-a-fair-trading-compliance-programme